4 arrested for Los Banos protest action vs vote buying

A village councilor, a poll watcher, and two others were arrested for taking part in a protest action against alleged vote buying and the presence of suspected vote buyers.

Protesters claimed the election offense was perpetrated by Los Banos town mayoral bet Anthony Genuino, a son of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chairman Efraim Genuino.

At least 800 residents were seen on the main street in Batong Malake, a major village in the town where a mix of protesters and observers met.

The chaos started when some volunteers of Frank Lapis, another mayoral candidate, reported cases of vote buying in the villages of Mayondon and Bayog.

Lapis's son Joel said there were witnesses to the vote buying.

“We asked the police to conduct an investigation but they refused. We were asking for the names of those complaining but they only told us that those persons have the right (not to disclose) their identity.”

He added his camp was seeking a probe on the identity of the persons involved.

In an interview, Senior Superintendent Chito Bersulana, Los Baños chief of police, said police respect the rights of the suspects in the alleged vote-buying incident.

Prior to the police chief's arrival in the area, police cars were seen escorting the vehicles of alleged voter buyers.

Lapis said his camp had no choice but to block the road since the police did not grant their request.

Tension started when the protesters started yelling at the policemen and Genuino’s camp.

Police fired warning shots.

Vice mayoral candidate Norvin Tamisin, meanwhile, added they confirmation of flying voters brought to the town by Genuino's camp.

Tamisin pointed to at least 30 buses entering the premises of Trace College, a school owned by the Genuino family.

Passengers of these buses, according to the groups of Tamisin and Lapis could possibly be flying voters brought into the town.

Ramil Lapis, a volunteer of a mayoral bet in Los Baños, presented a video to the Philippine Daily Inquirer showing at least 30 Greenstar buses entering Trace College at around 4 p.m. Sunday.

Lapis said he was wondering what those buses were doing inside the school owned by Genuino.

Meanwhile, around 30 public utility jeepneys were seen parked near the vicinity of Trace College which bore the signage of Calamba-Sta. Cruz route.

A concerned citizen who refused to be identified for security reasons said he personally saw the buses and jeepneys.

He said he asked one of the drivers on their purpose since their route is Calamba-Sta. Cruz.

“The driver told me they were asked to fetch some voters but the instructions were not clear yet,” he added.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried asking the drivers of the jeepneys, they said they were just there to fetch some groups of passengers but they were uncertain on who these passengers were.

In November, three residents of Los Baños town were held by the police for giving out copies of a news clipping claiming that some inmates from the the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa were being registered as voters in the town.

The inmates allegedly supported the son of the Pagcor chair.

Kaycee Manalegod, Genuino’s chief of staff, said over a phone interview, that the passengers on those buses were not flying voters.

“They are poll watchers of Atty. Erwin [Genuino] scheduled to attend a poll watchers’ seminar. Trace is the chosen venue of their seminar.”

Erwin is the brother of Anthony who running for mayor in Makati City.

At around 1 a.m, Leo XL Fuentes, a poll watcher and a member of the poll watchdog Kontra Daya, was arrested by the police.

As witnessed by the Inquirer, some of the protesters, including Fuentes were brutally handled and handcuffed.

“I was just asking them about the situation since I am part of a poll watchdog. They brutally handled me, yet they cannot answer the law I have violated,” said Fuentes.

“They violated my rights and handled me like an animal,” he added.

Virgilio Tandang, a barangay councilor, was arrested by the police for participating in the protest action and for wearing a shirt bearing the name of Lapis.

Tandang, however, question the police since there were also town residents wearing shirts bearing the photo and name of Genuino but were never reprimanded by the police.

Fuentes and Tandang are now in the custody of the Los Baños police. The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to get the names of the other two but the police did not give permission to this media person to enter the precinct.

Judith Antonio, 39, a resident of Barangay Batong Malake said vote buying is really rampant in the town.

She said she received lots of free items from Genuino, including apples, rice, and clothes, which she considers a form of buying votes.

“I am one of beneficiaries.”

Antonio has been a resident of the town for 39 years and she said this is the first chaotic elections she has witnessed.

Another resident who requested anonymity said she also received lots of free items. She even actively attended Genuino’s elections gatherings for the freebies.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer received reports from other local candidates that Genuino’s group was giving away P500 in Barangay Mayondon.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried calling Genuino’s staff four times regarding the allegations of vote buying but they could not be reached.

SOURCE: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20100510-269244/4-arrested-for-Los-Banos-protest-action-vs-vote-buying